By Craig Sager
State title hopefuls await AAA giants
No. 1 St. Pius X and No. 2 Blessed Trinity will enjoy byes into the semifinals, while No. 3 Woodward Academy, No. 4 Buford, No. 5 North Oconee and No. 6 Sonoraville battle for a chance to take on one of these two Class AAA powers.
North Oconee earned the top seed out of Area-6 to open the playoffs and Buford earned the No. 3 seed out of Area-5 for the playoffs, but the Titans will be travelling to Buford to take on the Wolves on Saturday after getting beat out for the No. 4 spot in the championship seeding.
North Oconee posted sweeps over Rockmart and Johnson, Savannah in the opening two-rounds of the playoffs and Buford recorded its sweeps on the road against Cartersville and Southeast Bulloch in the first two rounds. North Oconee will play on the road for the first time in these playoffs. The winner awaits a road match with St. Pius X.
Blessed Trinity is set to host the winner of Sonoraville at Woodward Academy. Woodward earned the No. 1 seed out of Area 2 in the first two rounds of the state playoffs and swept a dangerous Morgan County squad in the opening round and Islands in the second round. Sonoraville’s road to the Elite 8 was difficult, but the Phoenix were able to hold off North Hall in straight sets and Oconee County 3-1.
Cinderellas look to mirror Lovett’s 2012 title run
Last season, Lovett completed its state title run by beating rival Westminster in the finals in five sets. It was the first time in three matches that the Lions defeated the Wildcats that season and coach Mary Buczek’s squad rallied from a 9-4 deficit in the fifth and final set to win 15-13.
This year, Lovett is the No. 3 seed in the Championship Bracket and will host No. 6 Kendrick for a trip to No. 2 Wesleyan in the semifinals. Wesleyan and No. 1 Westminster each earned byes in the quarterfinals. The top-seeded Wildcats await the winner of No. 5 Jefferson at No. 4 St. Vincent’s Academy.
The Dragons have already found success on the road this postseason and will travel to St. Vincent’s coming off a 3-0 sweep of Toombs County in the opening round and a 3-0 sweep of Calhoun in the second round. The Saints earned the No. 1 seed out of Area-2 and completed sweeps over Rabun County and Spencer to punch their ticket into the Elite 8.
Battle-tested field eyes state title
Hebron Christian’s 3-1 win over defending champion Landmark Christian was enough to earn the Lions the No. 2 seed and a bye in the quarterfinals. The Eagles are the only defending state champion to not reach the Elite 8 this season after falling to Hebron Christian.
The outcome of No. 6 Darlington at No. 3 Savannah Christian will decide what team will visit Hebron Christian in the semifinals. Darlington swept Fellowship Christian and Our Lady of Mercy in the first two rounds and Savannah Christian swept George Walton Academy and Paideia. The Raiders have not lost to a Georgia team since August 24 when they fell to Holy Innocents’ 2-0 (25-19, 25-18).
Top-seeded Holy Innocents’ will host the winner of No. 6 Savannah Country Day at No. 4 Eagle’s Landing Christian. The top-seeded Bears dominated ELCA the first time the schools met this season 2-0 (25-14, 25-16), and were swept by Savannah Country Day (26-28, 16-25) early on the year.
Holy Innocents’ is a well-deserving No. 1 seed, but they face a very hot team in the semifinals regardless of what team wins. ELCA topped Greenville and Mt. Paran in the opening two rounds and Savannah Country Day topped Athens Academy 3-1 in the opener and swept No. 1 Walker in the second round of the playoffs.